One of the easiest ways for lawyers to both do a public service and give their firm a little marketing boost is to give speeches to civic organizations and community groups. If you haven't done that in a while, think of how you can gain some exposure doing this during 2010. Contact someone you know who is a member of a group to ask who arranges for presentations at their meetings. You can talk about the legal system generally or a topic within your area of expertise. I note in our Oklahoma Bar Journal such diverse persentations as Edmond lawyer Courtney Davis Powell driving out to Elk City, Oklahoma to discuss wage garnishments with a group of human resources professionals and Tulsa attorney Leah Farish speaking to the United Nations' Special Politcal and De-Colonization Committe earlier this year at the United Nations. Not every speech will bring your new clients. But the mere fact that the attendees get to meet you and hear from you may make it likely they would feel comfortable calling on you if they need legal services in the future.
The Automated Attorney is the theme of the December, 2009 GPSOLO magazine. It is one of those must read issues. Congrats to Jeff Allen and the rest of the contributors and staff. If you are not an ABA GPSOLO member, then you should thank the generous members of the section who provide all of the articles online for free. Share this link with a fellow lawyer who might have an interest in law office automation. no matter what their firm size or practice setting.
It may be too late for holiday shopping, but Jeff has outdone himself with this year's review of cool gadgets, phones and office equipment. So you may see something you really need to buy for yourself.
I also neglected to mention the 3rd Annual ABA Journal Blawg 100 has been released. You can view the list here. Sadly, they didn't name this blog to the list after it made the cut the first two years. My mom is very upset. :-) It is interesting that this year they apparently decided to shift the focus of their list to include more light, gossipy and entertainment type of law blogs. Maybe they thought we all needed more cheering up and diversion during tough economic times. I should note my great pleasure at the inclusion of two great relatively new blogs from some of my friends in the Blawg 100. You will not be disappointed if you take the time to visit Allison Shield's Legal Ease blog and the irreverent and witty3 Geeks and a Law Blog.
I was invited to speak at the Ohio State Bar Legal Technology Conference for Solo and Small Firm Practitioners last week. It was a great conference and they had a great faculty. It was good to see Barron K. Henley, Paul J. Unger, Brett Burney and Britt Lorish-Knutgen. I would think any state bar would be proud to have a technology conference featuring three current ABA TECHSHOW board members. My topics were not all technology, strictly speaking. I spoke on Billing Strategies for a Changing Economy, How Good Lawyers Survive Bad Times, Social Networking and "Keeping Them Satisfied: Exceeding Client Expectations Every Day."
I greatly appreciate the Ohio State Bar inviting me to be a part of this great conference. The last trip I made to Columbus, I got snowed in. So this time I was happy to get out before any snow even though lots of other people were snowed in across the eastern part of the U.S. this past weekend.
With a tough economy, more lawyers are being tempted, or forced, to branch out into new practice areas. This is not a bad thing. Many lawyers have found their practices evolved into areas that they did not anticipate. In fact, I recall being at a superfund defendant's meeting many years ago when our newly-hired lawyer started off by saying something to the effect of "I'm a trial lawyer, not an environmental lawyer, but I know how to learn." It wasn't too many years before he was known as a leading environmental lawyer.
But there's a big difference in making a decision to expand into a new area of law (with plans for mentoring and any needed education updates) and taking a thousand dollar fee for something you really don't do because you need the thousand dollars. You may think you will spend the time to get up to speed and ultimately most all lawyers will. But this is an area where dangers lurk, such as being unaware of local rules or local customs or the time it takes to prepare or crucial recent rulings. Adrian Baron makes the point with a witty Shakespearian touch.
The rapid number of new features and services launched by Google is truly amazing. In that vein please read5 Fabulous New Features Google Unveiled Today.They are not talking minor features. The first one is "Near Instant Voice Translation!"
The latest version of the e-mail/forged bank check scam targeting lawyers involves scammers posing as potential clients seeking to collect back child support or alimony. Some of these say they have already worked out an agreement, but want the lawyer to process the check for a healthy share of the proceeds. Of course, any time someone wants to pay you five figures to serve as a check-cashing service, your internal "too good to be true" alarm should go off.
Many lawyers are not aware of how long it takes the banking system to recognize and notify depositors of the forged checks. The scammer just hopes they can convince the lawyer-victim to wire out the money before getting the news that the check is worthless (or maybe now much worst than worthless.)
As a service to its members, the OBA has scheduled a free webcast on this topic on December 15, 2009 at noon. While you may think you understand how this works, are you sure everyone in your office does? We anticipate more variations on this theme. OBA members can enroll now online for this free webcast.
I think even replying to the e-mail may have generated a FedEx delivery of the check, figuring the scammers may still catch a phish. Several local lawyers here are holding the checks. Alabama Bar Association Assistant General Counsel Samuel S. Partridge even managed to snag one after his phone was answered "Alabama Bar Association." (See illustration.) Read his story here.
One of the easy tip-offs is that the e-mail will refer to your jurisdiction or your city, but not by name. It would be way too much trouble to customize them with a reference to specific city or state. Don't get scammed. Enroll for our free webcast.
Fixed fees needn’t mean working more for less (or for free) is the title of my new column in Lawyer's USA. It is interesting to note that this year the term "Alternative Billing" has changed to "Alternative Fee Arrangements." That is fine by me. The new term is more accurate and the acronym AFA is more usable. The column addresses the concern of many lawyers that fixed fees will have them working for free. Honestly as the systems go into place, that may be true sometimes. But this column addresses ways to limit that possibility.